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Thursday, 8 January 2015

Off duty cop kidnaps woman from jail, drives her to his house 'for personal relationship'

Canadian jail

© Unknown

A police officer was recently found to have acted "inappropriately" after he pulled over an intoxicated Native American woman, and then drove her to his house to have a "personal relationship" with her.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer was disciplined, and given seven days off off work without pay. The Canadian CBC News reported that adjudication documents said that "RCMP Const. Kevin Theriault took an intoxicated woman he had arrested out of a cell and drove her to his northern Manitoba home to pursue a personal relationship."

Theriault and another officer had arrested the woman at a party back in 2011 according to the report. They placed her in a cell "to sober up" but six hours later Theriault came back, out of uniform, and requested that the woman be released into his custody.

The RCMP report says that he drove the woman to his house in his personal car, while officers taunted him via text message to find out "how far he would go" with his prisoner.

One of these officers even "jokingly made a comment about having a threesome," according to the report.

One officer said that all of this "wasn't right."

But he eventually even conceded: "You arrested her, you can do whatever the f*ck you want to do."

Once all of this came to light, the Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Nepinak called the incident "a gross abuse of power."

"They have to hold one another to standards of conduct," Nepinak said. "We expect to be protected, just as every Canadian expects to be protected by a policing agency."

He noted that Theriault's punishment, however, is just a "slap on the wrist," but did not explain why he was not being punished more harshly.

The Economist 2015 cover is filled with cryptic symbols and dire predictions?

The reputed magazine The Economist published an issue named "The World in 2015″. On the cover are odd images : A mushroom cloud, the Federal Reserve in a game called "Panic" and much more.

The Economist 2015_1

© The Vigilant Citizen

I wouldn't normally dedicate an entire article analyzing the cover of a publication, but this isn't any publication. It is The Economist and it is directly related to the world elite. It is partly owned by the Rothschild banking family of England and its editor-in-chief, John Micklethwait, attended several times to the Bilderberg Conference - the secretive meeting where the world's most powerful figures from the world of politics, finance business and media discuss global policies.

The outcome of those meetings is totally secret. It is therefore safe to say that the people at The Economist know things that most people don't. For this reason, its "2015 prediction" cover is rather puzzling.

The bleak and sinister cover features a political figures, fictional characters and pop culture icons that will surely make the news in 2015. However, most importantly, it also includes several additions that are extremely symbolic and allude to important concepts and world events.

Here's the cover :

The Economist 2015_2

© The Vigilant Citizen

(You can view a larger version of the cover here).

At first glance, we see political figures like Obama and Putin, references to the Rugby cup and the new Spider-Man movie. But a closer look reveals a plethora of important concepts. Here are some of them.

Two-Faced Globe

The Economist 2015_3

© The Vigilant Citizen

One side of the globe gazes stoically towards the West while the other side appears irate. Does this represent a confrontation between the East and the West? The cover features a few other symbols referring to the "rise of the East". What's more unsettling is that, immediately under that angry globe are pictured a mushroom cloud (the kind that happens after a nuclear bomb goes off) and a spy satellite launching into space.

The Economist 2015_4

© The Vigilant Citizen

High tech surveillance and nuclear warfare. The Economist is not very optimistic.

The Color of the Faces

Take a closer look at the faces of the personalities featured on the cover. Some of them are in full color and others are in black and white. Why is that?

The Economist 2015_1

© The Vigilant Citizen

Among those in black in white are Putin, Merkel, Obama, Hilary Clinton and David Cameron. Among those in color are David Blaine, a young person holding a "Singapore" banner (Singapore is the host of the 2015 SEA games), and another random guy wearing virtual reality equipment. A quick compilation of this data reveals that those in black and white appear to be part of the elite (including the ISIS guy who probably works for them) and those in color are "outsiders". Is this how the elite perceives the world?

Pied Piper

The Economist 2015_5

© The Vigilant Citizen

The presence of the Pied Piper on this 2015-themed cover is downright unsettling. The Pied Piper of Hamelin is a German legend about a man who used his magical flute to lure away the children of the city of Hamelin, never to be seen again.

The Economist 2015_6

© The Vigilant Citizen

The Pied Piper leads the children out of Hamelin. Illustration from Robert Browning’s The Pied Piper of Hamelin.

This folkloric figure dating from the Middle-Ages is said to represent either massive death by plague or catastrophe, or a movement of massive immigration. It also perfectly represents today's youth being "lured" and mystified by the "music" of mass media. Conveniently enough, there's a small boy right under the Piper's flute.

Clueless Boy

The Economist 2015_7

© The Vigilant Citizen

Right under the Pied Piper we see a young boy with dumbfounded look on his face. He is looking at game called "Panic". The words "Federal Reserve" and "Chi" (which probably stands for China) are on top while the words "Green light!" and "sis!" (which probably stand for "Isis!" or "Crisis!") are at the bottom. The little boy watches as this twisted game of Plinko unfolds the same way the clueless masses watch powerlessly while various events unfold on mass media. As the name of the game states, the ultimate goal is to cause Panic around the world as crises are almost randomly generated by those who control the game. That's on a magazine cover partly owned by the Rothschilds.


The Economist 2015_8

© The Vigilant Citizen

In front of Putin is a small aircraft on which is written Crop-O-Dust. It appear to refer to crop dusting which is "the process of spraying crops with powdered insecticides or fungicides from an aircraft." Right under the helicopter is a kid ... eating something. Unsettling.

The Economist 2015_9

© The Vigilant Citizen

Sitting right under the crop-o-dust, this kid is eating a heavily processed package of noodles. Is he ingesting the poison that was spread by the aircraft?


The Economist 2015_9

© The Vigilant Citizen

A panda bear wearing a China-flag Speedo while flexing its muscles is a rather clear way of portraying the fact that China is gaining power. Next to it is a sumo wrestler holding a big battery on which the polarities (+ and -) are clearly indicated. Are they alluding to a switch in polarity in world power from the West to the East?


The Economist 2015_10

© The Vigilant Citizen

Emerging from behind Obama's leg is a ghost reading a magazine entitled "Holiday". Why is this ghost, which represents a dead person, planning a vacation? Does it represent the fact that the masses will be so impoverished that the only time they'll be on holiday is when they're dead? Does it relate to the countless people who died while traveling in the past months? Creepy.


The Economist 2015_11

© The Vigilant Citizen

Standing in front of everything else, gazing right into our souls is a turtle with emphasis lines around its shell. What does it represent? Will turtles make a huge comeback in 2015? Probably not.

An angry tortoise is the symbol of the Fabian Society, an extremely powerful organization that has been working for over a century towards to formation of a single world government.

The Economist 2015_12

© The Vigilant Citizen

The motto of the Fabian Society is “When I strike, I strike hard”.

The philosophy behind Fabian socialism is basically the blueprint of what we call today the New World Order.

The Fabian Society is a very old group originating in England in 1884, with the purpose of forming a single, global socialist state. They get their name from the Roman general Fabius, who used carefully planned strategies to slowly wear down his enemies over a long period of time to obtain victory. "Fabian Socialism" uses incremental change over a long period of time to slowly transform a state as opposed to using violent revolution for change. It is essentially socialism by stealth. Their original emblem was a shield with a wolf in sheep's clothing holding a flag with the letters F.S. Today the international symbol of the Fabian Society is a turtle, with the motto below: "When I strike, I strike hard."

- The Fabian Society, The Weather Eye

The Fabian Society used to openly advocate a scientifically planned society and supported eugenics by way of sterilization. Its original logo was a wolf in sheep's clothing ... But I guess that was not the best way to conceal the wolf from the masses.

Bringing forth a global system through small incremental changes is exactly what the world elite is currently doing. This is probably why there's an angry tortoise on the cover of this Bilderberg-connected publication, and why it is standing in front of the chaos behind it.

11.3 and 11.5

The Economist 2015_14

© The Vigilant Citizen

The lower right side of the cover features some more cryptic symbols. There's a pile of dirt on the ground and two arrows on which are inscribed 11.5 and 11.3. Are those dates to remember? Why are they next to a pile of dirt? If you look up these figures as coordinates, they point to somewhere in Nigeria. In other words, the presence of 11.5 and 11.3 is somewhat disturbing, especially considering the fact that those who made that cover did not want people to understand what they truly relate to.

Standing in front of the dirt is Alice in Wonderland looking upwards towards the Cheshire Cat.

The Economist 2015_15

© The Vigilant Citizen

This iconic cat is known for disappearing entirely, leaving only visible its creepy grin. We therefore see another allusion to a world of fantasy, illusion and deceit as perceived by Alice - the masses. Along with the somewhat unnecessary inclusion of David Blaine - the magician - the cover mixes real world events with symbols hinting to people being duped by magic tricks.

Other notable symbols on this cover include a piggy bank flying from James Cameron's pockets; A model wearing an Alexander McQueen creation (the elite's favorite designer who died in strange circumstances) and an Asian officer wearing a facemask to protect him from a deadly disease.

2015 seems great, doesn't it?

In Conclusion

The Economist is not a random newspaper that publishes quirky 2015 predictions to sell a few additional copies. It is directly connected to those who shape global policies and who make sure that they are applied. The publication is partly owned by the Rothschild banking family of England and its editor regularly attends Bilderberg meetings. In other words, The Economist is connected to those who have the means and the power to make "predictions" a reality.

The 2015-themed cover of the magazine basically reflects the overall Agenda of the elite and is peppered with cryptic symbols that appear to be included for "those in the know". And the masses, like Alice watching the Cheshire Cat disappear, will focus on illusions while the wolf in sheep's clothing will strike ... and strike hard.

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'American Sniper' portrays remorseless killer as a hero?

American Sniper

© The Inquisitr

Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle.

Clint Eastwood's newest film, has been heavily criticized for altering the true history of the source material to make the movie more suitable for American audiences. is based on the memoir of Chris Kyle, a former U.S. Navy Seal from Texas, who was deployed to Iraq in 2003.

Kyle admits in his own memoir that he enjoyed the act of killing people, which he claims to have done 255 times. Meanwhile, the movie adaptation reportedly portrays Kyle as a much more human character. Some say even depicts him as a hero.

discussed the discrepancies between the complex reality of Kyle's memoir and Hollywood makeover, accusing of simplifying a "hate-filled killer" to appeal to American patriots. claims established a dilemma for Bradley Cooper's character, wherein he had to adopt a sense of us-versus-them to justify killing 255 people on the battlefield.

"Chris Kyle saw the world in clearly demarcated terms of good and evil, and American Sniper suggests that such dichromatism may have been key to both his success and survival; on the battlefield, doubt is akin to death."

Meanwhile, Chris Kyle's memoir reveals that the sniper found killing "fun" and described it as something he "loved" to do. In fact, Kyle even wrote that he "couldn't give a flying f*** about the Iraqis" he was killing. While many of Cooper's words were written into the script, American Sniper contorts Kyle into a more sympathetic character. Seemingly aware that viewers wouldn't be interested in watching if the protagonist was depicted as a sociopath, Eastwood decided to make hint at a struggle within Cooper's moral compass.

In doing so, Eastwood betrayed the truth of history in the eyes of many viewers. accuses of dehumanizing Iraqi people and venerating Cooper's character, despite the fact that Kyle's shocking, hateful words were kept in tact.

By focusing on Kyle's post-traumatic stress disorder and emotional state, claims makes a pro-America and anti-Iraqi political message, whether it intends to or not. does not cover the thousands of innocent civilians who died in the crossfire, or the Iraqis who fought alongside American soldier. Instead, some say accidentally (or otherwise) glorifies Chris Kyle's killing spree.

While it might be obvious to some viewers of that Bradley Cooper's character should not be celebrated, many self-professed American patriots have rushed to defend depiction of Chris Kyle and hailed him as a hero.

In response to criticism of Kyle and one American mom wrote: "Move your America hating a** to Iraq, let ISIS rape you then cut your c*** head off, f***ing media w**** muslim."

Even more alarming is the threat Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper received from the father of Chris Kyle, who swore he'd "unleash hell" on the filmmakers if they disrespected his son in

Have you seen If so, what did you think of the film's portrayal of Chris Kyle?

Super-massive black hole pair on course for cosmic collision

In a galaxy far, far away, a pair of supermassive black holes appear to be spiraling together toward a cosmic collision of unimaginable scale, astronomers said on Wednesday.

The final act of this mating dance, perhaps a mere million years from now, could release as much energy as 100 million of the violent supernova explosions in which stars end their lives, and wreck the galaxy it is in, said S. George Djorgovski of the California Institute of Technology.

Most of that energy would go into gravitational waves, the violent ripples of space-time that are predicted but not yet directly detected by Einstein's theory of general relativity, Dr. Djorgovski said. And there could be electromagnetic fireworks as well.

black holes collide

© Santiago Lombeyda/Center for Data-Driven Discovery, Caltech

An artist’s conception of two black holes in close orbit. In the distant future, scientists expect two black holes to collide and give off a huge amount of energy.

According to theory, he explained in an email, the interactions of the black holes would drive nearby stars away, like shingles in a tornado. "However," he added, "I think that the nature is never so neat."

Dr. Djorgovski, one of the authors of a paper published in the journal on Wednesday, will discuss the research at a meeting in Seattle. The lead author is Matthew Graham, a computational scientist at Caltech's Center for Data-Driven Discovery.

The merging black holes manifested as a regular flicker in a quasar - a mass of light and energy - in a remote galaxy known as PG 1302-102. The most logical explanation, Dr. Graham and his colleagues wrote, is a pair of black holes circling each other less than a light-year apart.

"This is the most convincing evidence for a tight pair of black holes with a separation smaller than the solar system," said Avi Loeb, a cosmologist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who was not involved in the work, noting that other, less convincing systems have been suspected. He cautioned, moreover, that the evidence is not yet airtight; the apparent variation in the quasar light could be a statistical effect from not checking it frequently enough.

If it holds up under scrutiny, the system could be a bonanza for the young field of gravitational wave astronomy. It would also provide a preview of what will happen in our own Milky Way galaxy in a few billion years when it collides with the neighboring Andromeda galaxy, sending the black holes at the hearts of both galaxies into an "intimate (pre-arranged) companionship," as Dr. Loeb put it in an email.

Black holes are the most extreme consequences of Einstein's theory: maws so deep and dense that not even light can escape. There seems to be one weighing as much as millions or even billions of suns squatting like Dante's Lucifer in the center of every galaxy. Normally they are dormant, but when they feed on stars and gas, burping energy into space, they can light up as quasars, beacons that far outshine the galaxies in which they live.

Mergers of black holes should be common in cosmic history because galaxies are forever merging. Indeed, there are dozens of examples of merging galaxies in which the black holes are separated by tens to thousands of light-years, Dr. Loeb noted, some of them with beautiful jets coming from one or both of the black holes.

Astronomers can rarely see the consummation of these relationships, however, because after billions of years circling each other, the last spasm happens, it is believed, in a million years or so - an unimaginably long time to a human, but unimaginably short to a star or the universe.

Flanked by a pair of smaller galaxies, PG 1302-102 lies about 3.5 billion light-years from here in the constellation Virgo, and has a quasar at its center.

It was spotted in the Catalina Real-Time Transient Survey, which for nine years has been monitoring the brightness of 247,000 known quasars with telescopes in Arizona and Australia.

Dr. Graham found the signal from PG 1302-102 wavered by about 14 percent every 1,884 days, or roughly five years.

The only thing that could so significantly affect a giant black hole, Dr. Djorgovski said, would be another giant black hole. He estimated their combined mass is that of roughly 100 million suns.

The black holes are circling each other at a range of about 180 billion miles, he said. That is far too small to be resolved by any telescopes on Earth, but spectrographic observations suggest there are two things there, the researchers say.

The light variations could be caused by the jets of energy precessing like tops as the black holes sweep around each other, or perhaps warps in the disks of material swirling around them, Dr. Djorgovski said.

The closeness of the black holes would mean that the system has evolved well past the point where supercomputer simulations of the merger would work. To find out what happens, astronomers will have to build gravitational wave detectors and wait and watch.

Prison to Table: Whole Foods exploits wage loopholes to increase profits

Whole Foods prison labor

© Steve Rhodes/Flickr

Whole Foods workers participate in a Fight for 15 strike, July 31, 2013

It's not clear what shocked people most about the report in that Whole Foods Market sells goat cheese and tilapia prepared with prison labor - the horrendous exploitation of prisoners for a base rate less than one-tenth of Whole Foods' starting wage, or the fact that even after paying prisoner-workers sixty cents an hour, that tiny wheel of goat cheese still costs upward of seven dollars. Whichever reason it was, for many the story disturbed the experience that Whole Foods carefully cultivates for its customers.

Walk into any Whole Foods Market and the messaging is clear. Colorful panels above neatly displayed quarts of organic chicken broth boast that Whole Foods pays the highest minimum wage in the grocery business ($10 an hour, which is still a poverty wage for most workers). Pamphlets outside the meat cases detail the company's animal welfare rating system and explain why it doesn't sell shark meat and other seafood that can't be fished sustainably. Workers in a seemingly casual but carefully tailored uniform set out "Whole Trade" bananas while smiling and making small talk with customers. Along the walls, posters introduce you to different vendors whose products the store stocks. When you check out, a cashier may ask you to donate to the Whole Planet Foundation - a program to give microloans to women entrepreneurs in developing countries. The stores are designed, from the crates used to display produce to the boat-deck-style overalls worn in the seafood department, to give you the impression of a highly compressed supply chain, carefully monitored for quality and decentralized to produce "win-win" relationships with vendors.

Whole Foods portrays this experience as the natural state of affairs in a bastion of so-called conscious capitalism - a strategy that has contributed in no small part to the company's incredible success. It pioneered a new model for grocery stores that based its marketing not only on the products it sold but on its image as an "activist" company that "revolutionized" the way the grocery business was run. The real secret of Whole Foods' success, however, is far less novel or glamorous: it has essentially profited from scamming its customer base.

When you go to a Whole Foods, you might pick up an organic avocado priced at two dollars - pretty steep for such a common produce item, especially when you can get it for half the price almost anywhere else. But Whole Foods' marketing and branding tell you that you're not only paying for the avocado, but to ensure that the workers who produced this avocado were treated well, that the avocado was farmed in the most ecologically friendly way possible, and so on down the supply chain. Beyond the utility of the fruit to you as a food item, you are also supporting better working conditions and ecological sustainability.

When I worked at Whole Foods as a cashier, customers told me on a number of occasions that they chose to shop there because they believed working conditions in the store and on the supply chain were excellent. "You must love working here," they would comment. They would smile when I explained what the Whole Trade label meant and ask me for a list of Whole Trade products available in the store. They would ask questions about local products and come into the store specifically to meet the producer during special events.

So when customers found out that prisoners were being paid appallingly low wages for helping to create some of the artisanal foods that line the store's shelves, they were outraged. Why shouldn't they be? Beyond exploiting a vulnerable population of workers housed in the nation's prisons, Whole Foods had essentially defrauded these customers.

The pretty image of Whole Foods' good labor practices has been ripped away, and now customers are getting a glimpse at the ugly reality beneath it.

Perhaps even more upsetting than the practice of employing prison labor are the justifications that the company and vendors give for the policy. In a series of tweets sent out in response to customer outrage, Whole Foods said, "One of our core values is supporting our communities, & that includes paid, rehabilitative employment of inmates at CCI. CCI's animal husbandry programs plays [sic] a small but vital role in rehabilitating inmates so they can learn job skills to help them contribute to society in meaningful ways upon release. We're proud to partner w/ programs that help inmates."

Meanwhile, at , Laurel Miller of "The Sustainable Kitchen" (a cheese consulting company) lambasted articles decrying the use of prison labor, parroting the management of CCI by suggesting that the labor programs instill inmates with skills and a work ethic (thereby assuming that the inmates had neither before beginning the program). Additionally, she claims that bloggers like Kelly Faircloth "know not of what [they] speak" when they refer to CCI's program as exploitative. After all, she writes, "inmates do have rights, and when those aren't met, events like riots and hunger strikes occur." Miller flips the tables, suggesting that the central focus of the program is the benefit it provides to inmates, not the role it plays in producing commodities to be sold for profit. She asks, "If it benefits yuppies shopping at Whole Foods or bamboo fishing-rod aficionados on the side, does it matter?"

As a matter of fact, yes.

Contrary to what she suggests, there is a political economy to prison labor, and its primary beneficiary is neither the inmates performing the labor nor the consumers purchasing the product, but rather the vendors that make the product and the companies to which they sell it. Even if prisoner-workers earn the recently touted figure of $400 a month, that's certainly not enough to support any family they have been separated from while incarcerated. These workers should be earning - at the very least - the $10 per hour that Whole Foods uses as its base wage, and when workers on the outside win our $15 per hour through the Fight for 15 campaign, prisoner-workers should get $15 too. CCI and Whole Foods' claims that this is about helping inmates, not about making money, seem a bit flimsy when they are paying prisoner-workers $6.65 less than the federal minimum wage and $9.40 below the Whole Foods base wage.

While the idea that people are unemployed because they lack work ethic is downright insulting, there are many people who could (potentially) benefit in the long run from access to things like job training, or dairy certifications. Despite the recent jobs report, full-time, living-wage employment remains out of reach for most workers in the United States. So if CCI's programs are allegedly about job training, why target prisoners? Because they're vulnerable, confined, and oppressed. Most important, it's legal to pay these workers a mere fraction of the minimum wage.

We need strong communities with full employment, living wages, and access to services. Any support for a prison system that channels millions of people, overwhelmingly black and brown, into a lifetime of legalized discrimination actively undermines our communities and must be opposed. Miller claims in her defense of prison labor that this larger question is "not the subject at hand"; Whole Foods did not create the outrageous prison wage system that it exploits. And yet Whole Foods brought the bigger issues into play by invoking one of its "Core Values": "We Serve and Support Our Local and Global Communities." If Whole Foods sells free-range eggs because it's inhumane to keep hens in cages that rob them of their quality of life, it seems more than a little contradictory to then claim that exploiting the labor of caged humans who have been ripped from our communities - often for nonviolent offenses - and locked up by a barbarous criminal injustice system is "serving the community."

Companies do things like exploit prison labor every day. Why write about this particular case? As a former Whole Foods worker, and a person who still works in the grocery industry, I know that the practice of exploiting prison labor is only a particularly egregious example of an increasingly widespread practice: boasting about good working conditions as a marketing practice while subjecting workers to intolerable (and often illegal) conditions.

Earlier this year, my coworkers and I peeled back another corner of that pretty picture Whole Foods uses to hide its poor labor practices when we went on strike to demand that our coworker, Rhiannon Broschat-Salguero, be reinstated after she was fired for calling out to take care of her special needs child during the polar vortex that closed Chicago Public Schools. As we gathered petition signatures outside the store to call for her reinstatement, customers expressed shock and outrage. They gave us their support - wore buttons, signed petitions, complained to management, even refused to shop at the store. We were also able to discuss with customers the other grievances that had led us to begin organizing a union: poverty wages, sexual harassment, racism on the job, unfair attendance policies, and a lack of human dignity and respect at work.

Unlike prisoners, we don't live under lock and key, but we are both exploited by the same process - which also means that there is potential for us to fight it together. We can also join with customers to say that Whole Foods needs to treat its workers better and pay them more - because that's what the customers have paid for. The villains in this story aren't the "yuppie customers," but companies that ruthlessly exploit workers while claiming to care about them. In the outrage that has poured out across the web over the last two weeks lies the power to change these labor practices and secure better wages and working conditions for all workers - behind bars or not. We must not let it dissipate.

Additional footage of Tamir Rice shooting shows 14-year old sister tackled and restrained

© RT

Police tackled and restrained the teenage sister of 12-year-old Tamir Rice when she rushed to her dying brother after a Cleveland, Ohio cop fatally shot the boy in November, according to newly released video footage of the now notorious incident.

The Cleveland Police Department shared the 30-minute recording on Wednesday night, lending credence to claims made by the Rice family about how law enforcement acted in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. This comes in the midst of a wave of similar tragic officer-involved incidents that have unfolded across the United States in recent months.

"," Akron-based attorney Walter Madison, a representative of the Rice family, told the Northeast Ohio Media Group when he viewed the video footage.

On November 22, 2014, the Cleveland Police Department received reports concerning a male with a gun at an area playground, and a cruiser, with Officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback, arrived on the scene shortly after.

Police said Loehmann engaged when Rice reached into his waistband, and that officers didn't learn until after the fact that the boy only had a non-lethal airsoft pistol. An abbreviated, 2.5-minute video clip, taken from a nearby surveillance camera and released by the police days after the incident, showed previously that Loehmann, 26, fired two shots at Rice in just as many seconds. This happened as soon as the officer got out of his vehicle, fatally wounding the boy.

According to the new footage made available this week, roughly one minute after Rice was shot by Officer Timothy Loehmann, the victim's 14-year-old sister sped to his aid but was intercepted by another cop, forced to the ground and eventually detained in a nearby patrol car only a few feet from her dying brother.

Cory Shafer, a reporter for the Northeast Ohio Media Group, wrote on Wednesday that the video, released only after a lengthy debate between the press group and city officials intent on withholding the footage, confirm claims made last month by Samaria Rice, the mother of the deceased.

"I noticed my son laying down on the ground and I went charging and yelling and everything at the police because they wouldn't let me through," she said during a December 8 press conference." Then I seen my daughter in the back of the police car -- the same car that the shooter got out of. As I was trying to get through to my son, the police told me to calm down or they would put me in the back of a police car."

"She told me that the police tackled her and put her in handcuffs," she recalled hearing from her daughter. "I didn't even know she was in handcuffs. I knew she was crying for me, but I couldn't see her hands. This is what she told me that she was in handcuffs in the back of the car. They also questioned her with no adult around."

The Rice family filed a lawsuit last month against the city of Cleveland and the two officers, and Mayor Frank Jackson said last week that Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department had taken the lead in the local investigation. The second-in-command at that office will spearhead the probe, Shafer reported, and then hand evidence to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty, who is tasked with presenting the information to a grand jury responsible for deciding whether or not any of the officers should be criminally indicted.

Last month, US Attorney General Eric Holder traveled to Cleveland to announce the Department of Justice had uncovered evidence of "systematic deficiencies," "inadequate training" and "ineffective policies" exhibited by local law enforcement between 2010 and 2013. There were 600 examples during this time, along with what he described as "inadequate engagement with the community."

"We found that CDP officers too often use unnecessary and unreasonable force in violation of the Constitution. Supervisors tolerate this behavior and, in some cases, endorse it," the department's report concluded.

"The DOJ and the city of Cleveland have come together to set in motion a process that will remedy these issues," Holder said.

Tamir Rice's death came only two days after a grand jury in St. Louis County decided not to indict Darren Wilson, at the time an officer with the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department, over an August 2014 incident in which he fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen.

Coupled with similar tragic events, including the death in July of Eric Garner in Staten Island at the hands of the New York Police Department, rallies and protests have raged across the US in an effort to raise awareness of what demonstrators say are unjust law enforcement policies and police tactics.

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New antibiotic found in Maine soil proves effective against drug-resistant bacteria

© William Fowle/Northeast University

A previously uncultured bacterium, Eleftheria terrae, makes teixobactin, a new antibiotic.

Researchers may have found a new antibiotic that bacteria will not become resistant to for decades, according to a new study. The discovery came not in a lab, but in soil from Maine, using a little-known device that's "generating excitement."

Dr. Kim Lewis, director of Northeastern University's Antimicrobial Discovery Center, sought to find a new source of antibiotics other than synthesizing them in a lab. So he and Slava Epstein, a biology professor at the same Boston, Massachusetts school, headed into "a grassy field in Maine," Lewis told reporters during a Tuesday conference call. They took a soil sample, which yielded teixobactin, the previously undiscovered antibiotic. The journal published their research on Wednesday.

Lewis then tested the compound for resistance development and did not find mutant MSRA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) or Mycobacterium tuberculosis resistant to teixobactin, which was found to block several different targets in the cell wall synthesis pathway. The antibiotic was effective against the deadly ‒ and difficult to treat ‒ staph infection in mice as well.

Teixobactin is thought to attack microbes by binding to fatty lipids that make up the bacterial cell wall, and it is difficult for a bacterium to alter such fundamental building blocks of the cell, reported. By comparison, most antibiotics target proteins and it can be relatively easy for a microbe to become resistant to those drugs by accumulating mutations that alter the target protein's shape.

"Our impression is that nature produced a compound that evolved to be free of resistance," Lewis said to news@Northeastern. "This challenges the dogma that we've operated under that bacteria will always develop resistance. Well, maybe not in this case."

The antibiotic could be a huge weapon in the fight against drug resistance, a "serious threat" to world health. In the United States alone, at least two million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics each year, and at least 23,000 people die annually as a direct result of these infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"The world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill," Keiji Fukuda, the World Health Organization's assistant director-general for health security, said in April.

But teixobactin is also remarkable because it is 'uncultured,' meaning that standard laboratory culture techniques are not able to grow it, Dr. Jordan Betz, a bioengineer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology told RT.

"Case in point: something like 97 percent of the human gut microbes are unculturable at present," he noted.

Researchers grew single cells from the soil sample in their natural environment, where they then divided and multiplied into colonies. Once the colonies formed, the bacteria were "domesticated,"

and the scientists could collect them and start growing them in petri dishes in the laboratory, The reported.

"Essentially, we're tricking the bacteria," Lewis said during the teleconference.

To do this, the team used a piece of equipment that was first written about in 2010 but didn't gain any prominence until Lewis' article was published.

"Teixobactin isn't even the most promising part of its own story. That honour falls on the iChip - the tool that the team used to discover the compound," according to "Teixobactin is a fish; the iChip is the rod. Having the rod guarantees that we'll get more fish - and we desperately need more."

The device is now generating excitement because it has the potential to reveal further undiscovered antibiotics, reported. It enables previously unculturable microbes to thrive in the lab, and so makes it easier to discover bacteria that naturally produce compounds deadly to other pathogens.

"The technology is very cool," Gerard Wright, a biochemist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, who was not involved with the study, told . "Nobody knew if these bacteria produced anything useful."

© Slava Epstein/Northeastern University

The iChip is used to find teixobactin.

The iChip works by sorting individual bacterial cells harvested from soil into single chambers. The device is then buried back in the ground. Several molecules in that environment are able to diffuse into the device, allowing the bacteria to thrive in a more natural setting than a petri dish. Typically, only about one percent of microbes in a soil sample are able to grow in the lab; the iChip expands that number to 50 percent, according to the researchers.

"The method has the potential to be truly transformative, giving us access to a much greater diversity of environmental bacteria than previously imagined," Gautam Dantas from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri told .

Teixobactin has not yet been tested on humans, so its safety and effectiveness are not known. Studies in people will not begin for about two years, Lewis noted. Those studies will take several years, so even if the drug passes all the required tests, it still will not be available for five or six years. If it is approved, he said, it will probably have to be injected - not taken by mouth.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University, called the research "ingenious," but cautioned that its efficacy is not guaranteed.

"It's at the test-tube and the mouse level, and mice are not men or women, and so moving beyond that is a large step, and many compounds have failed," he told the .

Lewis and Epstein co-authored the paper with colleagues from the University of Bonn in Germany, NovoBiotic Pharmaceuticals in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Selcia Limited in the United Kingdom.

Medical fascism: Supreme Court rules teen cannot refuse chemotherapy. What does this mean for the future?


© unknown

How can any American living here in the supposed "land of the free" honestly believe we still are?

The Connecticut Supreme Court has now ruled that yes, the government has the power to force a minor to undergo chemotherapy treatments even if she doesn't want to.

That's right. The court has unanimously determined that a 17-year-old patient cannot refuse chemotherapy treatment, even if her mother agrees they want to seek alternative treatment, for her Hodgkin's lymphoma.

We aren't just a fascist oligarchy and a police state, but we absolutely a medical tyranny.

Let's just try to overlook the fact (even though it's huge and deserving of its own article) that we even live in a society where the number children getting cancer these days is .

This particular story centers around 17-year-old Cassandra Callender who, after being diagnosed with cancer in September and taking two treatments, ran away from home for a week in November because she did not want to take anymore. Cassandra has said that she feels chemotherapy is a poison and, that the girl, "believes chemotherapy would cause significant long-term bodily harm, like organ damage and infertility," reported Vox. When she returned home, Cassandra refused to take anymore chemo and her mother stood by her daughter's decision.

When the mother stood by her daughter's decision and they refused to take any further treatment, the hospital reported Cassandra's mom Jackie to the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) who took Cassandra away and ordered the family to comply with the treatment.

Cassandra and her mom took the issue all the way to the Connecticut Supreme Court...and lost.

Cassandra's case centered on the fact that both her and her mother's constitutional rights were violated when the state attempted to force treatment; that patients can't be forced to take such treatment over informed objection; and that the mature minor doctrine should be upheld which says that unemancipated minors may still be considered legally mature enough to make their own decisions in regards to health and medical treatments.

Connecticut, however, argued that the so-called "experts" have agreed that without chemo Cassandra could die, and because it is the state's duty to save her from harm, the treatments must be made compulsory.

According to a DCF statement, "When experts - such as the several physicians involved in this case - tell us with certainty that a child will die as a result of leaving a decision up to a parent, then the Department has a responsibility to take action."

So rule by experts...ah yes, add "technocracy" to the list because America is also a technocracy as well.

Once again, the government has trumped parental rights.

The court has upheld that they can force you to inject what you believe are poisons into your child's body if they say they are the "experts" and it is for your child's own good - something the State and its experts have decided they know better than parents do in these cases.

As I've reported before, the courts tried to force a 10-year-old Amish girl to receive chemotherapy in Ohio last year. The family went into hiding to avoid the decision.

Another case in Minnesota saw an eight-year-old girl whose family believed in alternative medicine forced to give her daughter chemo by the court.

But who will be held responsible if these State-forced medicines cause harm down the road? Who will be legally responsible then?

The reality is, this won't end with cancer treatments and we all know it.

We're just getting started on this slippery slope to medical Hell. Can you imagine what they'll use these court decisions to justify making compulsory in the future?

How about vaccinations for starters? All the "experts" have to do is say that they believe a vaccination is a life-preserving treatment and that parents who refuse vaccinations for their children are legally neglecting them in a way that might cause harm... America has already had the most aggressive vaccine schedule of any nation on the planet for a while now. States are already in the process of making it harder for parents to opt out of vaccinations, as the number "required" continues to grow.

Founding father Benjamin Rush warned over 200 years ago that medical freedom should have been added to the Constitution:

Unless we put medical freedom into the Constitution, the time will come when medicine will organize into an undercover dictatorship to restrict the art of healing to one class of men and deny equal privileges to others; the Constitution of the Republic should make a special privilege for medical freedoms as well as religious freedom.

But they didn't...and now here we are.

Land of the free? More like "home of the medically enslaved."

'Special administrative measures' keep Boston bombing suspect gagged

The prisoner

© James LeGros

Were accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev imprisoned in another country and barred from speaking to the outside world, he'd doubtlessly be described as "being held incommunicado."

Yet since he's an accused terrorist being held in the United States, the Justice Department-ordered gag on him has barely been noticed. And were anyone to ask why he's forcibly been kept silent, they'd be told he's been subjected to "Special Administrative Measures."

Don't be fooled by the innocuous sound of that. The phrase refers to a law that allows the government to restrict a prisoner's communications in ways that:

"may include housing the inmate in administrative detention and/or limiting certain privileges, including, but not limited to, correspondence, visiting, interviews with representatives of the news media, and use of the telephone, as is reasonably necessary to protect persons against the risk of acts of violence or terrorism."

The law was established to prevent presumably dangerous inmates - those accused of terrorism, espionage, mob or gang activity - from communicating to the outside plans that could result in death or bodily harm.

This is how stringent the rules are: federal prison officials told via email they are prohibited from even discussing general information about Tsarnaev.


Restricted from communicating with anyone but his attorneys, his immediate family and prison staff, Tsarnaev is one of 49 inmates nationwide subjected to a law that some attorneys say skews the odds against a defendant and "keeps terrorism suspects guilty until proven otherwise ."

According to attorney David Thomas, who represented terrorism suspect Mohammed Warsame:

"the provisions of the Sixth Amendment establish the federal criminal justice system on an adversarial model, where the government and the defendant, as opposing parties, are to be of relatively equal strength... This system collapses in federal terrorism cases because the government enjoys overwhelming advantages, principally its ability to impose SAMs and classify evidence as well as its power to engage in vast surveillance and secrecy."

And what communication Tsarnaev is allowed - including with his attorneys - is monitored by the FBI. The Bureau of Prisons also has tried to screen digital documents his attorneys have tried to view with him - actions his lawyers say are a violation of Tsarnaev's constitutional right to prepare his case without government interference.

He and his attorneys are also restricted from discussing his case with the media - so he can't tell his side of the story to the public. Tsarnaev's attorneys have argued the SAMs are a violation of his First and Sixth Amendment rights. U.S. District Court Judge George A. O'Toole Jr., who is overseeing the trial, has not ruled on that specific argument so the de facto gag order is still in place.

In fact, the public wasn't even aware of why Tsarnaev has not talked to the media. The SAMs were implemented on Aug. 27, 2013, but weren't made public until Tsarnaev's defense attorneys requested they be lifted in an October 2013 motion. Tsarnaev's attorneys went to court after they were denied permission to see their client at Federal Medical Center Devens, until they signed SAMs agreements. (FMC Devens is a prison for male inmates requiring specialized or long-term medical or mental health care.)

Stacking the Deck

Prior to 9/11, SAMs were allowed only by a court order.

But 9/11 changed that. Now, the Attorney General decides whether an inmate presents enough of a risk to qualify for such restrictive treatment. That decision is not subject to any external scrutiny. There is no requirement that the Attorney General's findings be made public, nor that the defendant or his/her attorneys be given any input.

Step back for a second and remember that the Attorney General is the head of the Justice Department, which prosecutes all federal crimes. The AG also oversees the FBI.

What does that mean for a defendant like Tsarnaev? It means that the person whose job it is to ensure his conviction has the sole right to decide whether he gets to tell his side of the story before trial. It also means that the overall boss of the FBI has "ears in the room" when a defendant is discussing legal strategy with his lawyers.

The judicial system is unsympathetic. Judge O'Toole summarily rejected an amicus brief from the ACLU of Massachusetts, which argued that Tsarnaev's constitutional rights were being violated.


That appears par for the course in most SAMs cases. While some defendants have filed civil suits against the U.S. government, the cases are either mired in appeals and/or have been sent to a Bureau of Prisons program that arbitrates cases of prisoner treatment.

In fact, only one defendant has succeeded in having the restrictions lifted. Shoe bomber Richard Reid forced the system's hand by refusing 58 meals in a hunger strike. The Justice Department relaxed the restrictions in 2009.

Tsarnaev has won some minor relaxations of the measures imposed upon him, but he still can't talk to the outside world. So law enforcement still has the monopoly on the Boston Marathon Bombing story.

The man who could shed the most light on the real facts get his opportunity to set the record straight. But that can only happen at the trial where his life is at stake, which ensures that the truth isn't at a premium.

Father charged with murder for throwing 5-year-old daughter off bridge


A Florida man driving toward a bridge over Tampa Bay pulled his car over early Thursday, took his 5-year-old daughter from the back seat, pressed her head to his chest, and tossed her over the rail, according to police in St. Petersburg.

John Nicholas Jonchuck, 25, faces first-degree murder charges. His daughter, Phoebe, fell about 60 feet over the Sunshine Skyway bridge into the bay just after midnight, St. Petersburg police Chief Anthony Holloway said at a news conference

An officer heading home after his shift saw Jonchuck's vehicle speed past at nearly 100 mph, Holloway said. The officer prepared to pull the PT Cruiser over, but by the time he caught up with it, Jonchuck had pulled over on the side of the road.

Holloway said Jonchuck got out and started toward the officer, who pulled his weapon. But Jonchuck went around to the passenger side of the car and got the child out.

The officer "thought he heard the child scream, but he wasn't sure," Holloway said. The officer then saw the man throw the child over, into the strong bay current.

Her body was recovered about a mile from the bridge and hour and a half later. Rescue crews tried to revive her, but she was pronounced dead at 2:44 a.m.

Back on the road, officers said Jonchuck got back in the car and headed south, crossing the bridge on Interstate 275. "The suspect drove off," Holloway said. "He just drove off." Two other officers who were near the bridge started following Jonchuck into neighboring Manatee County.

Holloway said Jonchuck turned his blinker on and stopped before starting again and driving toward deputies. He then headed the wrong way on the interstate, going back toward the bridge. Deputies put out traffic spikes to stop the vehicle

Jonchuck was arrested and brought back to St. Petersburg for questioning. He's being held without bond on the murder charge.

"He lawyered up," Holloway said. "He really didn't want to talk." He is scheduled for an initial court appearance Thursday afternoon. Jail records didn't list the name of Jonchuck's attorney.

In addition to the murder charge, Jonchuck also faces charges of aggravated assault with a motor vehicle on a law enforcement officer and aggravated fleeing and eluding police.

Authorities said Jonchuck filed a domestic violence report against the child's mother last month, but it wasn't granted. He had custody of the child, and they lived with his father in Tampa. Authorities didn't release information about the girl's mother.

An autopsy is pending.

US: Alabama breaks cold record from 1886

© Mike Kittrell/AL.com

Ice forms on vegetation in a pond Thursday morning, Jan. 8, 2015, in midtown Mobile, Ala.

Thursday morning Mobile was at 17 degrees, beating the 1886 record of 18 degrees, however the freezing temperatures should rebound by mid-morning according to the National Weather Service.

The area will have a hard freeze warning until 10 a.m., as many areas are in the upper teens to low 20s along the coast, according to Eric Esbensen with the National Weather Service Mobile. The wind chill Thursday morning put most areas at single-digit temperatures.

Officials at Hutchens Elementary School in west Mobile sent out an alert asking parents to pick up their children Thursday morning because of a broken water line.

Esbensen said Mobile can expect highs today in the lower to mid 40s near the coast and upper 30s, possibly hitting 40 inland.

Tonight will be another cold night, but not as cold as Wednesday night. Most places will be freezing but in the mid 20s, Esbensen said.

The Salvation Army shelter on Dauphin Street hosted an above-average number of homeless Wednesday night and will be open again Thursday night.

Around 7 a.m. temperatures were on the rise, but the wind chill is making if feel much colder outside. Downtown Mobile is at about 22 degrees with a wind chill of 8 degrees. In Baldwin County Bay Minette and Loxley are seeing the same temperature and wind chill.

Katie Hamlett with the Alabama Department of Transportation said around 7 a.m. they are not aware of any issues on ALDOT roads and bridges.

Esbensen said roads should not be frozen or icy since we have not seen any precipitation and don't expect to.

Netanyahu perp-walked to the Hague? We can only dream!


At the weekend, Fatah posted an image on its Facebook page of Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu next to a hangman's noose, alongside the words 'coming soon' and the scales-of-justice logo of the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

This is certainly how many Palestinians would like to view Netanyahu's fate over the coming months.

Last week, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, reluctantly signed on to the Rome Statute, paving the way for ICC membership, after he failed to win a vote at the UN Security Council on a resolution to end the occupation by 2017.

The loyalists of Abbas' Fatah party are likely to be disappointed, however. There are many obstacles to be cleared before anyone in Israel, let alone the prime minister, reaches the dock in the Hague accused of war crimes.

The first test will be whether Abbas' nerve holds. It will be 60 days before the application to join the ICC takes effect. In the meantime, Israel and the US - neither of which has ratified the Rome Statute - will exert as much pressure on him as possible to change course.

At Sunday's cabinet meeting, Netanyahu announced that Israel would withhold the monthly tax revenues it collects on behalf of Abbas' Palestinian Authority (PA) and which it is obligated to pass on.

Given the PA's precarious finances, that is a blow that will be quickly felt. Abbas dismissed the move, dressing up his diplomatic desperation as cavalier disregard. "Now there are sanctions - that's fine. There's an escalation - that's fine ... but we're pushing forward," he said.

Israel is threatening to pile on additional punishments this week. Or as a senior foreign ministry official put it: "Israel is about to switch from defense to attack mode."

Included is a plan to recruit Israel's powerful lobbies in Washington to ensure the enforcement of legislation requiring the US Congress to halt some $400 million in annual aid to the PA in the event that the Palestinians actually initiate any actions at the Hague to investigate Israelis for war crimes.

Implicating Abbas

Further, Israel is threatening to use its own undoubtedly formidable intelligence-gathering against Abbas and his PA officials, implicating them in war crimes too.

Israel could try to pursue Palestinian officials, including Abbas, through the US courts, which have in the past shown a willingness to back terror-related claims against Palestinians.

In September a New York jury found against the Jordan-based Arab Bank for channelling charitable money into the occupied territories to help poor families, agreeing that this had helped support "terror".

At the weekly Israeli cabinet meeting, Netanyahu warned: "Those who need to answer before a criminal court are the heads of the Palestinian Authority, who have forged an alliance with the war criminals of Hamas." One of his officials similarly noted that they had "quite a bit of ammunition" to use against Abbas.

An Israeli analyst, Barak Ravid, suggested that the goal might be to "create a balance of terror", reviving the Cold War principle of mutually assured destruction: "Each side would bombard the other with complaints until they can no longer breathe."

One course of action Netanyahu is reported to be loath to pursue on this occasion is a glut of settlement building. This was Israel's response back in 2012 when the Palestinians won a vote at the UN upgrading their status.

But the diplomatic fall-out then is said to have taught Israel a lesson, and it will not specifically characterise settlement expansion as part of its retaliation.

Persuading the ICC

The next obstacle will be persuading the ICC to investigate Israel. So far the Palestinians have had little success with the ICC, but previous justifications from the court for inaction are no longer valid.

In early 2012, the ICC dropped an investigation into Palestinian claims of war crimes committed during Israel's attack on Gaza in 2008-09 on the grounds that Palestine was not a recognised state. That changed with the Palestinians' change of UN status later the same year.

And in November the ICC's prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, halted an investigation into an Israeli commando operation against the Mavi Marmara aid ship in 2010 that killed nine humanitarian activists. The case had been made possible only because the ship was registered in Comoros, which had signed the Rome Statute.

Bensouda argued that the deaths of the activists were not of "sufficient gravity" to justify the ICC's intervention.

But now - with a much wider range of examples to choose from as a member of the ICC, including the attack on Gaza last summer that left more than 500 children dead - the Palestinians should be able to find cases that better qualify.

Nevertheless, such investigations, if they take place, will be laborious and time-consuming, especially as Israel will be actively uncooperative, just as it has been in blocking access to Gaza for UN inquiries into war crimes.

In the meantime, the US will be certain to put pressure behind the scenes on the Hague court to reject cases brought by the Palestinians. It can be expected to threaten the finances of the ICC and arm-twist it in other ways, just as it did Security Council members last week to ensure that a Palestinian resolution to end the occupation failed to win the necessary majority.

The politicised nature of the ICC should not be under-estimated. Its cases so far have targeted only African leaders, and ones that are seen as enemies of the US and the west.

International law experts note that it will be extremely difficult for the ICC to press cases against the leaders of a state widely seen in the US and Europe as a western-style democracy.

Immunity from prosecution

That might, for example, encourage uncomfortable comparisons between Israel's behaviour and that of the US and Britain in the Middle East. If Netanyahu or Tzipi Livni are to stand trial, why not Barack Obama or his predecessor, George W Bush? US leaders are just as culpable for their part in Washington's extra-judicial executions by drones over Yemen and Pakistan or its rendition and torture programmes.

Nonetheless, Israel still has good reason to be worried.

Whether or not cases are ultimately brought against Israelis, the threat of war crimes charges is likely to act as a restraint, creating an atmosphere of doubt, caution and fear on the ground among the Israeli security forces.

That is not something Israel, driven by a military tradition of creating deterrence by terrifying its Arab neighbours into submission, can afford to be complacent about.

As Tel Aviv lawyer Aeyal Gross observed, the ICC threat hangs more heavily over Israelis than Palestinians. Palestinian fighters are unlikely to fear an ICC prosecution given that "they are already at risk of assassination by Israel or long prison terms if caught. In contrast, Israelis have enjoyed de facto immunity from prosecution for Israel's actions."

Adding to this problem, Israel will have to demonstrate - if it is to be sure of pre-empting an ICC investigation - that it has carried out its own credible investigations and is prepared to prosecute its own soldiers, including commanders, with serious charges.

Until now, even lowly Israeli soldiers have enjoyed almost complete immunity for their actions, and Israel has refused to cooperate with independent investigations.

When Israel announced a handful of criminal inquiries into its attack on Gaza last summer, which left more than 2,000 Palestinians dead, most of them civilians, it was harshly criticised by local human rights NGOs. The two most respected, B'Tselem and Yesh Din, refused to cooperate, arguing that the investigations were a "whitewash".

Israeli authorities have so far approved 13 investigations into the summer's events but most relate to minor or isolated incidents, usually committed by junior soldiers. Five of the investigations are into allegations of looting: soldiers stealing money or items from Palestinian homes.

Double-edged sword

That will now need to change, even if only for appearances' sake.

Similarly, the threats Netanyahu and others Israeli officials have been making against Abbas are a double-edged sword. While Israeli officials have warned that the Palestinian application to join the ICC opens up a "Pandora's box", it may be that any damage to Abbas and the PA ultimately rebounds on Israel.

There have long been suggestions that Abbas has been actively conspiring with Israel against Hamas - including rumours that he was closely consulted on Israel's attack on Gaza in 2008-09. Exposing such collaboration could simply deepen Israel's troubles.

In any case, weakening the PA - whether by implicating it in war crimes or pulling the plug on its finances - risks its collapse and Israel's being forced once again to bear the full military and financial costs of the occupation.

That was why the US State Department on Monday expressed its opposition to Israel's refusal to transfer tax revenues to the Palestinians, saying it threatened "stability" in the region.

The Palestinians joining the Hague court might also serve as a fillip to groups trying to use the principle of universal jurisdiction in their own countries, including several major European ones that have already incorporated such legislation. That would be even more likely were the ICC to appear to be submitting to pressure to avoid prosecuting Israeli officials.

It would leave senior Israelis even more fearful of visiting such states for fear of arrest.

And maybe not least, the Palestinians' move to the Hague will exhaust yet more US goodwill as it is forced publicly to rescue Israel from the consequences of its own worst military excesses.

GMO's: Setting the record straight

Michael Specter's story in The New Yorker about Dr. Vandana Shiva's work to protect public health from the effects of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) skewed the facts and fell short of the magazine's usually high standards for fairness.

In the piece published in the August 20th issue (and in a subsequent podcast on The New Yorker's website), Specter makes it clear that he does not approach the topic simply as a journalist, but also as a strong believer in GMOs. He makes no secret of the fact that he considers opposition to GMOs to be unfounded.

But Specter makes his case by ignoring a great deal of evidence that directly contradicts his opinions. By ignoring important facts and questions - scientific, economic and legal - he allows his personal biases to undermine journalistic balance. The end product is a story that mirrors the false myths perpetuated by Monsanto Company on its website and does a true disservice to New Yorker readers.

Instead of allowing readers to weigh both sides of the argument and decide for themselves, Specter decides for them. He erases one side of the debate in order to tip the scales in favor of GMOs. Readers of his piece, "Seeds of Doubt," could easily come away with a false impression that the debate over the utility and safety of GMOs is settled. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The dangers posed by GMOs are a mainstream concern, and the debate over their safety and value to society is far from over. Specter's failure to acknowledge this undermines his argument in support of GMOs and harms The New Yorker's reputation for quality journalism.

Specter roots his critique of Dr. Shiva in easily disproven myths that are commonly repeated by the biotech industry, Monsanto Company and other GMO producers (Monsanto et al.), and their supporters.

Below, we illuminate his major errors and omissions, providing links to supporting research and articles that refute them. We encourage those who took the time to read Specter's article to give equal time to the facts and voices he chose to ignore completely.

Error #1: Distorting the Relationship Between GMOs and Famine

Specter roots his attack on Dr. Shiva's activism in a commonly repeated industry myth about the relationship between GMOs and famine. Just as Monsanto once claimed that a world without the carcinogenic pesticide DDT would be a world overrun by death and bugs, the GMO industry now claims that opposition to GMOs could lead to famines. In repeating this line, Specter specifically invokes India's Bengal Famine of 1943.

However, as any student of famines knows, the Bengal Famine did not result from a shortage of food. As the work of Nobel Prize-winning Harvard economist Amartya Sen and others have clarified, the famine in Bengal - like many other famines - took place at a time when the country had adequate food production.

"Famines often take place in situations of moderate to good food availability, without any decline of food supply per head," Dr. Sen wrote in Ingredients of Famine Analysis: Availability and Entitlements.

"Undernourishment, starvation and famine are influenced by the working of the entire economy and society - not just food production and other agricultural activities," Dr. Sen observed in Famines and Other Crises . "People suffer hunger when they cannot establish their entitlement over an adequate amount of food."

In Churchill's Secret War, Madhusree Mukerjee documents how Winston Churchill's well-documented disdain for the Indian people resulted in callous indifference toward the famine in Bengal. Mukerjee, a former editor at Scientific American and a recipient of the Guggenheim fellowship, takes Sen's analysis a step further, arguing that Churchill allowed the famine to happen as part of a strategy to maintain the British Raj's control over India.

There is no question that Churchill, who considered Indians to be "a beastly people and a beastly religion" and who referred to Mahatma Gandhi as a "malignant subversive fanatic," repeatedly ignored pleas to address the famine. Instead, the British exported grain from India while millions of Indians starved to death.

Churchill's unconscionable behavior drew a rebuke from Lord Wavell, the British Viceroy of India, who called it "negligent, hostile and contemptuous."

The Bengal Famine of 1943, it should be noted, was not the first famine to unfold while India was under British control. As Mike Davis documented in Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of The Third World, Britain had long employed the practice of exporting food while millions of Indians starved. Writes Davis:

"Between 1875 - 1900 - a period that included the worst famines in Indian history - annual grain exports increased from 3 to 10 million tons."

By completely ignoring the causes of the Bengal Famine, Specter misleads readers with this reference. In many cases, including the case he cites, famine occurred despite abundant food production. The problem was that a callous dominant force controlled the food supply and failed to act in the best interests of people.

Just as the British exported rice and imposed exorbitant taxes while the people of Bengal suffered, Monsanto et al. today impose on poor farmers exceedingly high royalties fees for its seeds. This forces them deeper into poverty and makes it harder for them to feed their families.

If Monsanto wanted to reduce hunger, it would not be doing so much to impose deeper poverty on farmers through its overpriced monopolistic seed scheme that perpetuates unsustainable dependency. Specter's assertion that profit-hungry corporations are the antidotes to famine makes zero sense to anyone who has studied famine.

Further, Specter's assertion appears to be based on the debunked myth that genetically engineered seeds increase crop yields. A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists - Failure to Yield - found that such claims are overstated. Instead, according to the report, which is based on an analysis of peer-reviewed scientific literature.

"Most of the gains are due to traditional breeding or improvement of other agricultural practices."

Even in the US, non-GMO crops have shown better yield improvements than GM crops, according to research conducted by the US Department of Agriculture and the University of Wisconsin.

This report and others show that when genetically engineered products are stacked up against other agricultural methods and technologies, they are only a minor contributor to productivity. Other methods are more important.

If anything, GMOs and monocultures may actually increase the risk of famine and ecocide because they disrupt our natural food system in unprecedented ways, in violation of the Precautionary Principle. From a recent report published by the Extreme Risk Initiative at the New York University (NYU) School of Engineering:

"Invoking the risk of famine as an alternative to GMOs is a deceitful strategy, no different from urging people to play Russian roulette in order to get out of poverty. The evocation of famine also prevents clear thinking about not just GMOs but also global hunger. The idea that GMOs will help avert famine ignores evidence that the problem of global hunger is due to poor economic and agricultural policies. Those who care about the supply of food should advocate for an immediate impact on the problem by reducing the amount of corn used for ethanol in the US, which burns food for fuel consuming over 40% of the US crop that could provide enough food to feed 2/3 of a billion people."

Notably, Monsanto is a top producer of GMO corn designed to streamline the conversion of a food staple into ethanol (rather than alleviate world hunger).

Specter's embrace of the GMO industry's famine canard ignores a Nobel Prize-winning economist's research into the root causes of the Bengal Famine, as well as other famines.

In addition, the assertion that GMOs increase crop yields (and thus food supply) is exaggerated. In particular, it ignores the availability of other methods, such as conventional crop breeding, that are more successful at increasing productivity. Finally, as the NYU paper indicates, contributing to monocultures of a few crops that are not primarily used for food, much less food that helps malnourished people, likely increases - rather than decreases - food insecurity. This very well-reasoned argument is completely ignored. Additionally, it should be noted that the European public has widely rejected GMO food products - while creating societies with less food insecurity than the United States.

"We strongly object that the image of the poor and hungry from our countries is being used by giant multinational corporations to push a technology that is neither safe, environmentally friendly, nor economically beneficial to us. We think it will destroy the diversity, the local knowledge and the sustainable agricultural systems that our farmers have developed for millennia, and that it will thus undermine our capacity to feed ourselves." - Statement at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations by the Representative of every African nation, except South Africa, in 1998

Error #2: Obscuring Vast Difference Between GMO and Natural

Specter also repeats the false claim that what GMO companies like Monsanto are doing to our food and plants is not fundamentally different than what has been done for centuries. He writes:

"Nearly all of the plants we cultivate - corn, wheat, rice, roses, Christmas trees - have been genetically-modified [sic] through breeding to last longer, look better, taste sweeter, or grow more vigorously in arid soil."

But the vast differences between breeding methods that use processes that commonly occur in nature and those used in GMO corporation laboratories is substantial. For one thing, GMO foods often introduce proteins not previously in the food supply into our foods. The proteins come from organisms such as bacteria that normally cannot place their genes into our food crops, yet they enter our bodies when we consume these GMO foods. We do not fully understand their effects on human health. This is especially true because the regulatory systems do not thoroughly test their safety. In the US, the very companies that want to commercialize these products conduct most of these tests.

"There is no comparison between tinkering with the selective breeding of genetic components of organisms that have previously undergone extensive histories of selection and the top-down engineering of taking a gene from a fish and putting it into a tomato," say the authors of the NYU Extreme Risk Initiative paper. "Saying that such a product is natural misses the process of natural selection by which things become 'natural.'"

Dr. George Wald, awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1967, raised the alarm on these concerns long before consumers became aware of them:

"Recombinant DNA technology [genetic engineering] faces our society with problems unprecedented not only in the history of science, but of life on the Earth... Up to now living organisms have evolved very slowly, and new forms have had plenty of time to settle in. Now whole proteins will be transposed overnight into wholly new associations, with consequences no one can foretell, either for the host organism or their neighbors. It is all too big and is happening too fast. So this, the central problem, remains almost unconsidered. It presents probably the largest ethical problem that science has ever had to face."

These unanswered questions and ethical problems have resulted in widespread public concern over GMOs. Over 90% of Americans believe GMO products should be labeled, and a majority says they would avoid buying them if they were. As a result, Monsanto et al. have spent millions of dollars to kill proposals for GMO labeling. Monsanto et al. have not been as successful in Europe. Notwithstanding that millions of tons of animal feed are sold to Europe every year, labeling laws coupled with scientific review based on the Precautionary Principle, in tandem with widespread public skepticism of GMO products, have made it nearly impossible for GMO products to be sold there.

The refusal of European citizens to serve as guinea pigs for Monsanto has hampered the company's efforts to expand there. Clearly, it is not only activists who have expressed legitimate concern about GMOs. Governments and scientists also clearly perceive the difference between natural products and GMOs, and taken steps to guard against potential dangers.

Yet Specter completely glosses over this issue, making an oversimplified comparison to essentially equate GMOs with natural products and wipe out a key concern of GMO opponents with one clever sentence. But according to the World Health Organization,

"Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination."

In a podcast accompanying Specter's piece on the New Yorker website, Specter goes so far as to deny that organic foods are healthier than GMO foods, a claim that is challenged by many peer-reviewed studies.

Conclusion: Specter's comparison between modern biotechnological engineering and other types of crossbreeding or hybridization is completely misleading. Many experts, including a Nobel Prize winner, have articulated why GMOs are not typically found in nature and represent uncharted scientific territory. Specter's oversimplification of the differences between natural and GMO products misinforms readers.

Error #3: Denying the Debate Over GMO Health Dangers

Specter's piece accepts as fact the false argument that GMOs pose no threat to public health and safety. He ignores credible research and serious questions about the health risks posed by GMOs.

For example, in 2013, a group of nearly 300 scientists from the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSEER) signed a public statement calling on GMO companies, commentators and journalists to stop repeating the false claim that a "scientific consensus" considers GMOs safe.

"We feel compelled to issue this statement because the claimed consensus on GMO safety does not exist," they wrote. "The claim that it does exist is misleading and misrepresents the currently available scientific evidence and the broad diversity of opinion among scientists on this issue. Moreover, the claim encourages a climate of complacency that could lead to a lack of regulatory and scientific rigor and appropriate caution, potentially endangering the health of humans, animals, and the environment."

The Center for Food Safety has done an excellent job of highlighting the potential risks of GMOs on human health, including toxicity, allergic reactions, antibiotic resistance, immuno-suppression, cancer and loss of nutrition. Monsanto et al. and their supporters typically deny any link between GMOs and negative health effects, saying there is no scientific evidence to prove it.

Yet, as the Center for Food Safety points out,

"the [FDA] also does not require any pre-market safety testing of GE foods. The agency's failure to require testing or labeling of GE foods has made millions of consumers into guinea pigs, unknowingly testing the safety of dozens of gene-altered food products."

Specter raises the common claim that no one has been harmed by consuming genetically engineered foods despite many years of widespread use in the US. But as with other possible food health risks, long-term harm to public health can only be determined by doing epidemiological studies, as have been done for numerous other possible health risks. Yet these studies have never been done for genetically engineered foods.

The paper on GMOs issued by the Extreme Risk Initiative at the NYU School of Engineering pokes more holes in the idea that, because we don't fully understand GMO risks, they must not exist:

"A lack of observations of explicit harm does not show an absence of hidden risk ... To expose an entire system to something whose potential harm is not understood because extant models do not predict a negative outcome is not justifiable; the relevant variables may not have been adequately identified."

In addition to the possible dangers posed by the GMOs due to superseding natural genetics, there is an added risk from pesticides. As the New York Times , Reuters, Forbes and many others have confirmed, GMO crops have resulted in the increased use of pesticides and herbicides. From Reuters:

"Genetically engineered crops have led to an increase in overall pesticide use, by 404 million pounds from the time they were introduced in 1996 through 2011, according to the report by Charles Benbrook, a research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University." Dr. Benbrook's paper can be found here.

This increased use of dangerous toxins on crops poses known risks to human health. Highly credible studies have linked exposure to pesticides to a host of major human illnesses, including many cancers, endocrine disruption, reproductive harm and autism.

Recent research from the University of California at Davis found that "mothers who lived within roughly one mile of where pesticides were applied were found to have a 60 percent higher risk of having children with any of the spectrum of autism disorders, such as Asperger's syndrome," according to the Sacramento Bee .

"The weight of evidence is beginning to suggest that mothers' exposures during pregnancy may play a role in the development of autism spectrum disorders," said Kim Harley, associate director of University of California, Berkeley's Center for Environmental Research and Children's Health.

The UC Davis study was the most recent study to establish a possible link between pesticide exposure and autism. Clearly, serious questions have been raised and there is more research to be done. Yet Specter fails to mention any of this.

Conclusion: Once again, Specter omits or ignores important research that raises questions about the health and safety of GMOs. By doing this, he obscures the fact that the concerns Dr. Shiva and others express about the dangers of GMOs are rooted in credible research and legitimate scientific inquiry. Specter's reliance on the classic "straw man" fallacy is what one expects from polemicists writing at Fox News or Breitbart, but is troubling for a journalist who writes for a reputable publication.

Error #4: Erasing the Link Between Monsanto Seeds and Cotton Farmer Suicides in India

Specter denies any link between Monsanto and the epidemic of farmer suicides in India, attributing their deaths mainly to the financial stresses of farming. His explanation mirrors the explanation Monsanto has posted on the section of its website dedicated to denying any link to the farmer suicides. And just like Monsanto, Specter ignores a key fact: Monsanto's role in creating the debt and financial stresses that drive many farmers to suicide.

"Cotton farmers are in a deep crisis since shifting to Bt (GMO) cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-12 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers." - Memo from the Indian Ministry, quoted in the Hindustan Times

The marketing of GMO seeds in India has resulted in farmers widely planting them without adequate information about their use and value. Specter greatly exaggerates the GMO seeds' effect on crop yields when authorities there have attributed most yield gains to other technologies, such as increased irrigation.

These seeds are extremely expensive compared to normal seeds, but they come with the promise of unrealistic results. When these promises prove false, an alarming number of these farmers - drowning in debt significantly worsened by Monsanto's pricing scheme - end their lives by drinking pesticides. As the brother of one suicide victim in Maharashtra, the heart of India's cotton-growing country, told award-winning reporter Andrew Malone in 2008:

"He was strangled by these magic seeds. They sell us the seeds, saying they will not need expensive pesticides but they do. We have to buy the same seeds from the same company every year. It is killing us. Please tell the world what is happening here."

Monsanto entraps Indian farmers in an expensive seed monopoly scheme, driving up their levels of indebtedness. Specter and others have tried to shift the blame for these suicides on "debt," but given Monsanto's role in helping to create that debt, this does not absolve the company of responsibility.

In attacking Dr. Shiva's advocacy for these farmers, Specter cherry-picks the data in order to deny the suicide epidemic altogether. Most flagrantly, he uses the national average of farmer suicides in India to dispute the notion that the number of suicides has increased. Yet, as Dr. Shiva points out in her rebuttal to Specter, the suicide epidemic is focused in the cotton-growing regions of Vidarbha in Maharashtra state - where Monsanto's expensive Bt Cotton (a GMO strain) has taken root.

From a July 2014 story in The Hindu newspaper:

"With the highest number of farmer suicides recorded in the year 2013, Maharashtra continues to paint a dismal picture on the agrarian front with over 3,000 farmers taking their lives. According to a recent report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a total of 3,146 farmers killed themselves in the state in 2013. Maharashtra repeated this performance despite the state registering 640 less farm suicides than 2012."

From a paper published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry in 2008:

"[The] majority of suicide cases are from cotton growing areas. The cotton farmers in India paying more prices for inputs like seeds, pesticides, fertilizers, electricity, water, and labor whereas the price of cotton has gone down along with decreased productivity"

Specter's failure to acknowledge the fact that the farmer suicide epidemic is centered in the cotton-growing region, where Monsanto's significantly more expensive Bt GMO cotton seeds now dominate, is a telling omission. Prices have increased exponentially since the introduction of Monsanto's GMO Bt cotton seeds. As the Indian Ministry of Agriculture put it:

"Cotton farmers are in a deep crisis since shifting to Bt (GMO) cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-12 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers."

In addition to driving up farmer debt by making the cost of seed significantly higher, Monsanto's GMO cotton seeds increase pressure on farmers because these GMO crops need more irrigation in order to grow. In dry regions where water is scarce, this mix of increased seed prices and increased reliance on irrigation can devastate farmers. As the Times of India reportedin September, Indian agriculture experts are urging farmers to abandon the GMO seeds and return to natural cotton, which is more affordable and less dependent on irrigation.

Unlike Specter, the Indian government and other reputable press organizations have taken the Monsanto link to the farmer suicide epidemic seriously. Shifting the blame to "indebtedness" does not absolve Monsanto in the least. Instead, it repeats Specter's use of a specific tactic - oversimplification - to dismiss concerns that contradict his opinion.

Micha Peled's award-winning documentary on the subject, Bitter Seeds, is mentioned by Specter in passing. We encourage people to watch the film in order to hear from Indian farmers in their own words and understand their perspective on the suicide epidemic and its root causes.

Conclusion: Yet again, Specter ignores facts and evidence that contradict his opinion in order to mock the serious concerns expressed by credible observers, including the Indian government, and makes evident his lack of journalistic balance and objectivity.

In Conclusion: Monsanto vs. Dr. Shiva

Michael Specter's New Yorker piece seems clearly intended to impugn the motives and character of Dr. Shiva. As we have shown in the preceding pages, he systematically excises important facts, studies and journalistic reports giving the false impression that concerns over Monsanto's monopolistic business practices and GMO products are unfounded. The opposite is true.

Specter goes so far as to express sympathy for Monsanto, writing that "the gulf between the truth about GMOs and what people say about them keeps growing wider" and that Monsanto "is simply not that powerful." What he fails to mention is that Monsanto has spent tens of millions of dollars to kill laws that would require GMO foods to be labeled in US grocery stores. The company's power to defeat common-sense laws that most Americans support in principle - and thus keep people in the dark about whether they are ingesting GMOs - undermines Specter's portrayal of Monsanto as misunderstood and ineffectual.

In addition to downplaying unsavory facts about Monsanto and GMOs, Specter also did his best to undermine Dr. Shiva's academic credentials. In fact, New Yorker editor David Remnick apologized to Dr. Shiva after Specter erroneously wrote that Dr. Shiva only had a bachelor's degree in physics. In fact, she has a master's degree in physics and a PhD in the philosophy of science. As such, she takes into account the scientific facts against GMOs and - unlike Monsanto - also weighs the moral questions.

Malicious stories about people who the GMO industry considers threats are nothing new or unexpected. Monsanto has a long history of attacking its critics. In 1962, when Rachel Carson published Silent Spring - a landmark book about the destructive effects of pesticides often credited with launching the environmental movement - Monsanto went on the offensive. The company published a parody of Carson's work titled The Desolate Year . It mocked Carson, portraying Earth as "a hungry world overrun by bugs" without DDT (a scenario that failed to unfold after the government banned DDT in 1972). Yet even today, decades after her death, Monsanto defenders like Rush Limbaugh continue to attack Carson for raising awareness of DDT's dangers.

Specter is not the first journalist to come after Dr. Shiva nor will he be the last. Our goal in putting together this response is to highlight the manner in which GMO companies and their supporters demean their critics by ignoring facts, setting up "straw man" arguments and engaging in perfidious attacks. They pretend to have the weight of truth and science on their side but, as we have shown, they ignore many important facts and questions.

As Specter himself acknowledges, Dr. Shiva articulates serious concerns that are shared by many people around the world. This is why attacks on her will not succeed. In the end, Dr. Shiva is simply one voice among tens of millions of other voices speaking out in defense of nature, health and justice.

"Much of what she says resonates with the many people who feel that profit-seeking corporations hold too much power over the food they eat. Theirs is an argument worth making," wrote Specter.

Rest assured Dr. Shiva's work will continue. Attempts to ridicule or silence her will not have the intended effect. Instead, they will only increase her visibility and thus her ability to speak forcefully on behalf of those struggling to survive the capitalistic monopolies of Monsanto et al.

About the Author

Dr. Vandana Shiva trained as a Physicist at the University of Punjab, and completed her Ph.D. on the 'Hidden Variables and Non-locality in Quantum Theory' from the University of Western Ontario, Canada. She later shifted to inter-disciplinary research in science, technology and environmental policy, which she carried out at the Indian Institute of Science and the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, India.

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